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May 13, 2002

Why Lala Is My Favourite

Last week I did a lot of bellyaching about being unemployed. (I maintain that it sucks, is scary, and doesn't do good things for your ego, but stay with me here.) There are some bright points when you don't have any responsibilities to anyone else except yourself during the day. Of course, as I'm both married and a parent, I do have responsibilities, but they are much less demanding on my time, how I dress, and what hours and duties I have to maintain.

My daughter just turned one at the beginning of the month. Technically, I guess that means she's no longer an "infant", and has graduated to being classified as a "toddler". Despite what the designation suggests, she does not toddle quite yet without assistance, but she is quite adept at climbing stairs, sprint-crawling, cruising around on the furniture, and pulling herself up on just about anything half her height or taller. I've been fortunate enough to spend the entire time that I've been "between jobs" with her and my wife. We've gone to the local park where she loves to swing and slide, taken many walks and seen all the neighbourhood woof-woofs (when you become a parent, you'll understand quick enough), and watched her favourite TV shows. Therein lies another downside to being an unemployed parent, however.

My daughter's favourite shows are Sesame Street (she's a big fan of Elmo, and gets really excited when the Elmo's World segment comes on) and Teletubbies. We own two one-hour Teletubbies videos, and due to her intense enjoyment of the colourful toast-eating freaks, we've been recording episodes from PBS, bringing our total collection up to over 6 hours of Teletubbies available for viewing.

Part of the reason we have so many episodes recorded isn't for her enjoyment and stimulation. It's for my wife's and my own sanity. We started the collection with a single one-hour video ("Nursery Rhymes") which was played far too often. But when your daughter likes it, and will watch it intently for 20 minutes while you get dinner ready, you damned well push play again and again. After a couple months of the same nursery rhymes over and over and over again I bought another one-hour video ("Baby Animals") to give us some variety. Now, since I've been staying home days we found that PBS Boston shows two half-hour episodes every day at noon, and PBS Seattle shows an episode each day at 3pm. This is where we've been recording episodes from.

The danger with this is that while such episodes are being recorded, the TV is usually on. Predictably, this means I've been exposed to an awful lot of Teletubbies. This can have widely varying effects on people. When I saw my first episode many years ago, I thought it was completely insane and didn't understand a damned bit of it. One person I met through work told me that one day he saw an episode for the first time, but five minutes into said episode he was feeling overwhelming urges to hurt himself and destroy his television. Your mileage may vary.

I have survived due to intense conditioning during university. At one point in my life, I could not watch even three minutes of the Power Rangers. However, after incremental conditioning, I am now able to sit through an entire episode without doing anything more than thinking that the special effects are rather poor, and that the story line is pretty lame. Heck, I could probably watch the movie. Sailor Moon? I could sing you the theme song. Pokemon? I have to wonder how Ash is funding his seemingly pointless and random wanderings with his friends and fighting pocket monsters.

So, I am now almost fully versed in Teletubbies and their world. I say almost, because every once in a while I learn something new that my wife seems to already know. As she was a nanny previously to three young boys, she watched a lot of Teletubbies herself. For instance, I did not know anything about Tubby Sponges until a couple weeks ago. Tubby Toast is pretty self-evident, and I've now seen the Tubby Toast machine go berserk on two separate occasions. I've only seen the Tubby Custard machine once, but seen Tubby Custard itself spilled on at least two occasions, and consumed on many more. Tubby Sponges I've now seen twice, and I know that the Controls make various sound effects.

Being an adult, and being what many people would call "analytical" to a degree slightly higher than normal (so I guess, anyways) this produces some interesting results. In no particular order:

  1. Lala is now my favourite, surpassing Po. Po is cute in a short and quiet way, but Lala is just much more expressive and entertaining. Not that the other Teletubbies are boring deadbeats, but Lala communicates much more with her body language, and is much more personable for it.

  2. I've been trying to figure out how I can go about making the recipe for Tubby Toast. They appear to be large, thick, dense pancakes of sorts. The side and interior is a light beige-grey colour, but each face (complete with happy face in the same colour as the side) is a dark brown that appears to be quite solid, almost like a well-caramelized bread. I'm thinking that it probably will be based around a molasses loaf recipe to being with.

  3. What if we're not seeing the whole picture? The whole Teletubbies world smacks of an experiment; put in four unique creatures, add some stimuli and see how they react. Of course, the power controlling the experiment is benevolent, but nonetheless somewhat eccentric.

  4. The Noo Noo rocks. An intelligent vacuum cleaner? Come ON, that's COOL. I've been analyzing how it's made, intent on wanting to build one for myself. Unfortunately, the eyes alone may need as many as six degrees of freedom to operate properly, and I still don't know how I'd control the actual nozzle and hose. I also don't know where I'd find a big red flashing light for a bum.

  5. A friend of mine recently told me that she suffers from clinical depression, which is a deficiency of serotonin in her brain. I am convinced that all the Teletubbies suffer from the exact opposite: clinical elation, where their serotonin levels are off the charts. When the Tubby Toast machine (their only source of solid food) goes haywire, or simply doesn't work, they become INTERSTED and EXCITED. I am firmly convinced that if one of them (say, Dipsy) were beheaded, the other three would simply dance around the severed head giggling and saying "Dipsy head! Dipsy head!"

  6. I am impressed with the engineering behind the Teletubbies' house. It's a domed structure covered in grass, with both a ground-level door and an opening at the top that leads to a slide into the interior. It is very spacious (maybe overly so), but quite simple and strong. Buckminster Fuller, eat your heart out.

I'm sure that the creators of Teletubbies never meant for so much thought and attention to go into the analysis of their show. After all, it is targeted to the newborn to three-years-old crowd, making me ten times older than their target audience. My imagination will do what it will, with or without my permission, so all I can do is sit back and enjoy the weird and wonderful notions that cross my mind.

I either need to find a job soon, or I'll have to re-order the Speed Channel...


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